Michigan Republicans spar in 2nd gubernatorial debate
DETROIT (AP) — Republicans running for Michigan governor on Thursday welcomed President Donald Trump’s decision to halt his policy of separating migrant children from parents detained at the border and avoided criticizing him for imposing steel and aluminum tariffs that the home-state auto industry fears could hurt business and has sparked retaliatory Chinese tariffs affecting farmers.
In their second and final televised debate, the four candidates also said the state’s deteriorating roads can be improved without raising taxes and that gun control is not needed in the wake of another mass shooting — this time at a Maryland newspaper. State Attorney General Bill Schuette, who touted his endorsement from Trump in the hourlong debate, has led polling ahead of the August primary that also features Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines.
“We’ve been in a trade war with China for a long time, and we’ve been losing. What President Trump is trying to do is rebalance efforts,” said Schuette, who largely ignored criticism from Calley and the other candidates and instead attacked his potential rival in the general election, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer.
Colbeck and Hines supported Trump’s trade actions, while Calley said he hoped the tactics were part of a “negotiation” because “we can’t have a case where the international markets that our products are being sold in all over the world end up getting closed off to our companies.”
More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in recent weeks and placed in government-contracted shelters — hundreds of miles away, in some cases — under a zero-tolerance policy toward families caught illegally entering the U.S. Many are from drug- and violence-wracked Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Asked if he supported the transfer of children to be housed in Michigan, Schuette said “we shouldn’t separate families” and added that he was “so glad President Trump changed that.” Calley said “we need to secure the border and we can even build a wall, but separating out parents from their kids — that’s just not who we are.”
The four men differed over giving tax incentives to businesses for economic development, a practice that term-limited GOP Gov. Rick Snyder initially abandoned only to bring it back later in his tenure.
Colbeck criticized “picking winners and losers via corporate subsidies,” as did Hines. Calley, however, backed targeted incentives to redevelop contaminated brownfields in the wake of broader tax changes that were made — “getting something out of circulation back in ... serves the public good,” he said. Schuette said such incentives should be balanced and “equally applied for both small businesses and large.”
It was the fourth time the Republicans debated each other — after a previous GOP-only debate in Grand Rapids and two joint debates or forums with the three Democratic candidates — Whitmer, a former legislative leader, businessman Shri Thanedar and ex-Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed.
In their closing statements, Calley said he has a “real plan” to take Michigan into the future while Schuette said he would cut taxes in Michigan like Trump reduced them federally. Colbeck urged voters to look beyond “one-minute sound bites” from the other candidates. Hines said he is the “true outsider” and questioned what the other officeholders had done to decrease auto insurance premiums, ensure kids can read or fix the roads.